When starting out, your product or service has to be at least good if not great. It must be differentiated in some meaningful and important way from the offerings of your competition. Everything else follows from this key principle. Don’t drag your feet on getting your product out to market, since early customer feedback is one of the best ways to help improve your product. Of course, you want a “minimum viable product” (MVP) to begin with, but even that product should be good and differentiated from the competition. Having a “beta” test product works for many startups as they work the bugs out from user reactions. As Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook has said, “Done is better than perfect.”
Working capital loans. A working capital loan is a debt borrowing vehicle used by the company to finance its daily operations. Companies use such loans to manage fluctuations in revenues and expenses due to seasonality or other circumstances in their business. Some working capital loans are unsecured, but companies that have little or no credit history will have to pledge collateral for the loan or provide a personal guarantee. Working capital loans tend to be short-term loans of 30 days to 1 year. Such loans typically vary from $5,000 to $100,000 for small businesses.
Tenant improvements. Your new space may need some improvements or alterations (a new paint job, new carpeting, a reconfiguration of the space). Which party will pay for these improvements depends on how tight the commercial office space market is in your city. Most form leases stipulate that the tenant can’t make any alterations or improvements without the landlord’s consent. Ask for a clause that says you can make alterations or improvements with the landlord’s consent, and that the consent won’t be unreasonably withheld, delayed, or conditioned. Often, you are able to negotiate a “tenant improvement allowance,” which is an agreed-upon sum of money that the landlord will provide for the improvements and alterations you would like to make.
Venture capitalists tend to start investing at $1,000,000, and they prefer to invest in high-growth and high-risk businesses. High-growth investment means the venture capital investor would see a return in 3-7 years by selling the company or going public. Venture capitalists tend to require a large amount of equity in your business, including a position on the board of directors.
One of their loan programs is the SBA 8(a) business development program. According to their website, SBA’s 8(a) business development program is specifically dedicated to providing business assistance to entrepreneurs who are members of a socially and/or economically disadvantaged minority group who need help accessing mainstream economic capital. This program is divided into two sections and requires a nine-year commitment. The first four years are dedicated to development, and the remaining five years are a transition stage.
There are many private lenders or financial institutions that would be willing to entertain your loan application with no collateral, provided you offer some personal guarantee. You may use a cosigner, offer some asset or real estate as security or any kind of infrastructure or commodity that is worthwhile. This option is not strictly unsecured but there is the option to use various kinds of assets or commodities as personal guarantee which may work for many business owners. The interest rates of private lenders would be quite high as such loans don’t have backing of the government.
At some point nearly every franchise will seek a loan or working capital. Knowing your franchise financing options can be the difference between thousands of dollars saved or lost. If you are a franchise business owner seeking financing and need help understanding the options, please reach-out to one of our funding specialists and we’ll help you navigate the process.
It’s often easier to get started with a franchise compared to an independent business because a franchise comes with a proven concept, brand recognition, and customer base. Although the success rates of individual franchises vary widely, as a whole, franchises perform better than independent businesses in the long run. According to a report by the International Franchise Association, about 12,000 franchises open their doors every year!
The ROBS option allows you to use funds from your retirement savings to finance your franchise without paying early withdrawal penalties and taxes. This can be an attractive option for franchisees that struggle to get traditional loans and are comfortable with some amount of risk. Those with substantial retirement savings may feel most sanguine removing a portion of those funds for this purpose.
“My credit is very strong and I owned my house outright. So when I realized the SBA loan would take too long, I decided to go to my personal bank and apply for a HELOC. The whole process took less than two weeks, the interest rates were great, and I never looked back. I was even allowed to use the HELOC for my franchise fee, which other financing wouldn’t allow.”
There are infinite sources of financing available to help you launch the franchise of your dreams. However, operating a franchise with no reserves and blinding yourself to unexpected business problems can lead to disaster. A good rule to remember: Never invest more than 75 percent of your cash reserves. If you have $10,000, invest $7,500. If you have $25,000, invest $18,750.
Paula is a New Jersey-based writer with a Bachelor's degree in English and a Master's degree in Education. She spent nearly a decade working in education, primarily as the director of a college's service-learning and community outreach center. Her prior experience includes stints in corporate communications, publishing, and public relations for non-profits. Reach her by email.
The franchise industry, like all businesses, was not immune to the economic crisis of 2008 and the ensuing credit crunch. But the vital signs of a recovery are there. According to the International Franchise Association (IFA), many of the country’s business sectors currently starting to show growth mirror those sectors expected to be the leading drivers of employment in franchising this year. These include food service, health care, hospitality and construction—all sectors with a high concentration of franchise businesses.
Approximately 75 to 100 franchisors are offering or working on offering creative financing programs for start-up franchise owners or those looking to expand. Programs range from zero-percent financing for a limited-term, lower license fees, reduced royalties and minority stake ownership by franchisors in multi-unit outlets. Each brand has its own offering, so down payments and collateral requirements will vary.